The U.S. federal government recognizes that yellow school buses are the safest mode of surface transportation, outranking passenger vehicles by more than eight to one in the number of fatalities. School buses are 13 times safer than other modes of school transportation, and this figure increase to 44 times safer than vehicles driven by teenagers. This can be attributed to the bright yellow color of school buses, which signal caution to other motorists. School buses also are manufactured to comply with 37 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that apply specifically to school buses. Some of these standards include occupant protection, re-inforced roll cages to protect school buses during rollover crashes, emergency exits and window retention and release, flashing red lights and extended stop arms for school bus stops, and electronic stability controls.
But, historically, not all schools use buses but instead opt for less expensive vans. But these vehicles are not built to the same standards as school buses and have been responsible for thousands of deaths and injuries over the past several decades in rollover crashes. In 2005, Congress passed SAFETEA-LU, the highway transportation reauthorization bill, that made it illegal for school districts to purchase non-conforming vans for regular school transportation to and from home. This closed a loophole that previously only banned the sale of these vans to school districts.
Safety extends past simply inside and around the school bus or other vehicles. School bus drivers are held to the highest standard, as employers require extensive criminal background and drug and alcohol tests, behind-the-wheel driver training, student behavior management skills, evacuation planning, and much more.